How Do Homeless Kids Get Ready to Go Back-to-School?

How Do Homeless Kids Get Ready to Go Back-to-School?

As the new school year gets underway, parents and children know the anticipation and excitement that accompanies the first day of school: the simple joy of a new backpack, a new outfit, new shoes, or a clean notebook. Yet for many parents and children across the US, these items are luxuries they can’t afford.

It’s something we all know – that there are poor and homeless families who live in our own cities and towns. But most of us don’t realize just how bad the situation is.

Across the United States, homelessness and poverty are at unprecedented levels. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that since 2007, family homelessness skyrocketed by 20%.

It’s important to define what is meant by “homeless”. When we think about homeless people, most of us think of bums living under a bridge or winos begging for change. But this is not an accurate picture of the homeless today. Sure, there is a “chronic homeless” population that mostly lives outdoors, but the majority of people who are homeless today are working individuals and families with children who cannot afford to rent or buy a permanent home.

According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the lack of affordable housing is the leading cause of homelessness in every city, county and state nationwide. A study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that there is no jurisdiction (no town, city, county or state) in the United States where a working family of four, earning the poverty threshold wage of $24,000 can afford even a one-bedroom home at fair market rates.

So where do these families live? Where do you go if you’ve been bankrupted by an illness, lost your home to foreclosure, or just don’t earn enough to rent a suitable home? Many cities offer family homeless shelters where families can stay together. Other families live in motels, trailer parks, or camp grounds. Families often live in the basements or attics of friends or relatives, while waiting to hopefully get placed in some sort of government subsidized housing.

Wherever they stay, it’s not a permanent home and children tend to suffer the most from repeated transitional living. What school will children attend if they have no permanent address? How will the kids adapt, manage and succeed in their education if they have no stable place to live? If parents can’t afford a place to live, how will they equip their children with the supplies, clothes and shoes necessary to attend school?

About four years ago, FOCUS North America began working with school districts around the country to provide meals to poor children. Almost every school in America has a free and reduced lunch program that operates during the day when children are in school. However, over the weekend, many of these kids don’t get enough to eat. To combat hunger over the weekends when the free lunch program isn’t available to kids, FOCUS packs up meals each Friday and sends these meals homes with the children so that they can feed themselves and their siblings.

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